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Case study: Making NPQs work in a stand-alone Local Authority school​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

We visited Falcon Junior School in Norwich to speak with headteacher Edward Savage.

Falcon Junior School is a large school, with the capacity for four-form entry. The size of the school means that there are many ways to develop leadership within the staff community. As well as the headteacher, there are three assistant headteachers and each year group has a head of year.

Edward had previously undertaken Leading from the Middle and Leadership Pathways (precursors to National Professional Qualifications (NPQs)) and had found them a valuable professional development experience, allowing him to develop his understanding of his own school context and the wider education system, which eventually lead him to headship. He is currently undertaking the NPQ in Executive Leadership (NPQEL), which he believes is a very positive thing not only for him but his school too. As a result of his own professional development he recognised that there was a need for other colleagues to have access to high quality training to enhance their understanding of leadership and staff development. So, he signed up three of his Heads of Year for the NPQ in Leading Teaching (NPQLT) delivered by Julian Teaching School Hub.

While many may feel that having three key members of staff all on the same course at the same time is logistically challenging to the point of impossibility, Edward feels that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Carefully planning the calendar in advance, accommodating for the absence, meant that the school was prepared for the face-to-face sessions and there were no sudden panics around cover. Finances were also considered, and the required cover was budgeted for in advance. Ensuring resources were in place was essential: investment in people and the future of the school needed to be guaranteed, not just hoped for.

Positive impacts are already being seen within the school: 

The three members of staff are all heading in the same direction at the same time so can work collaboratively together and share their experiences and understanding easily.

Edward can see that they are already influencing other staff, encouraging them to get involved in school-based professional development and sign up for external training such as NPQs. Edward also believes that there is a greater understanding within the senior leadership team (SLT) about the importance of implementation and staff buy-in.

We are thinking more about the how and why, there is a shared purpose and understanding around identifying problems and finding the solutions rather than randomly attacking possible issues.

The school is in the process of creating a development pathway to help facilitate staff to move through different roles within the school.

We have a vision that someone could start with us as a TA, progress into teaching and eventually leadership.

Part of this pathway is ensuring that the staff currently in role have access to high-quality, evidence-informed professional development. For many years the focus of the school’s professional development needed to be on curriculum development and subject delivery, but now that this is embedded the school can switch the focus to developing leadership and enhancing the shared culture of implementation promoted through NPQs.

There are many barriers to accessing high quality professional development when you are a stand-alone school. Edward identified several:

Being a head with sole responsibility for budgets, curriculum, HR, premises and everything else associated with running a school leaves little headspace to consider other things, unless something is presented to you it can be hard to find the time to go looking for things that might be beneficial. This is why having a Teaching School Hub is such a great idea, as you know where to find everything you need. Finding opportunities for staff progression can also be challenging as there are limits to what can be offered within an individual school and sometimes to develop staff need to leave, unlike in a MAT this means losing them entirely from the organisation. NPQs allow for staff to be developed and progress their understanding and take on a more active role in the school, aiding with retention.